Are you a foreign national with a family member in Ireland who you would like to join? It is now possible to do that as now there are clear steps that the Irish Immigration Department has laid out. This is all about applying for an Irish family visa, which would allow you to remain in the country for quite some time, allowing you to join and spend time with your loved ones already residing there. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about this visa, whether you are eligible, what’s needed and how to apply for it.
What is an Irish family visa?
Irish Family Visas are travel documents that facilitate family reunification for non-European Economic Area (non-EEA) citizens with their relatives living in Ireland. These visas allow eligible individuals to join their family members, such as children, parents, spouses, or civil partners, who are already residing in Ireland. With that said, there are several types of Irish Family Visas available, each catering to specific family relationships and circumstances:
- Child Dependent Visa: This visa is for children dependent on a parent or parents residing in Ireland. To qualify for this visa, the child must be under 18 and financially reliant on the parent(s). In addition, the parent or guardian must have immigration permission to live in Ireland.
- Spouse/Civil Partner Visa: This visa category is for the spouse or civil partner of an Irish citizen or a non-EEA citizen who already has immigration permission to live in Ireland. The couple must be legally married or in a recognized civil partnership to be eligible for the visa.
- De Facto Partner Visa: This visa is for individuals in a committed, long-term relationship with an Irish citizen or a non-EEA citizen who already has immigration permission to live in Ireland. To qualify, the couple must have lived together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least two years.
- Dependent of a Critical Skills Employment Permit Holder Visa: This visa is for the dependents (spouse/civil partner and children under 18 years) of individuals who hold a Critical Skills Employment Permit in Ireland. The Critical Skills Employment Permit is granted to highly skilled workers in specific occupations.
When applying for a family reunification visa, it is crucial to specify the category under which you are applying and ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements for that particular category.
Eligibility for the sponsor
When it comes Irish family visa, the very first requirement is for one to have a sponsor, who is the person that will sustain you in the country. Without a sponsor, your visa application will certainly be rejected. So, who is this sponsor, and what really qualifies him/her? Here are some of the eligibility requirements:
- Citizens of Ireland: Irish citizens can sponsor certain family members, such as spouse/civil partner, dependent children under 18, and dependent parents or grandparents, subject to certain conditions.
- Citizens of EU/EEA countries living in Ireland: EU/EEA citizens residing in Ireland may also be eligible to sponsor certain family members under EU Treaty Rights, which allows for the free movement of EU/EEA family members.
- Citizens of non-EU/EEA countries with an employment permit: Foreign nationals from non-EU/EEA countries who are legally employed in Ireland under a valid employment permit may be eligible to sponsor certain family members, such as spouse/civil partner and dependent children.
- Foreign citizens with Stamp 4 or Stamp 5 residence: Stamp 4 is a residency permission granted to certain non-EU/EEA nationals, such as those who have worked in Ireland for a specified period, while Stamp 5 is granted to non-EU/EEA nationals with permission to live in Ireland for a specific purpose, like family reunification. These individuals may be eligible to sponsor certain family members.
- Researchers under a hosting agreement: Researchers who are in Ireland under a hosting agreement may be eligible to sponsor certain family members, subject to specific conditions as well.
- PhD students enrolled in an accredited course in Ireland: PhD students enrolled in an accredited course of study in Ireland may be eligible to sponsor certain family members, subject to specific requirements.
Among other requirements, all sponsors are primarily required to demonstrate their financial capacity to support the visa holder while they are in Ireland, ensuring that the visa holder will not be dependent on public funds. If the sponsor is an Irish citizen, for the family unification to be approved, he or she must have earned a cumulative income of about 40,000 euros and above for the previous three years.
Eligibility for the applicants
The Irish Family Visa has specific eligibility requirements that applicants must fulfil to be considered. These requirements encompass various aspects to ensure a legitimate and stable family reunification process. They include the following:
- Valid Passport: Applicants must possess a current and valid passport.
- Irish Citizen Relative: The applicant must have a family member who is an Irish citizen with whom they seek to be reunited.
- Proof of Irish Address: The applicant must be able to provide evidence that their Irish relative has a valid address in Ireland.
- Sponsorship and Petition: The Irish relative must agree to sponsor the applicant and initiate the visa petition on their behalf.
- Sponsor’s Eligibility: The sponsoring relative must meet all the eligibility requirements for sponsorship, which may include demonstrating financial stability and the ability to support the applicant during their stay in Ireland without the need for public funds.
- Proof of Relationship: The applicant must be able to provide proof of their relationship with the sponsoring relative, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc.
Additional eligibility criteria may apply depending on the specific circumstances and the type of family reunion being sought. For instance, if the applicant is an Irish citizen sponsoring their non-EEA dependent children, they would need to prove active and continuous involvement in their children’s lives.
A document checklist
When applying for a Family Reunification Visa for Ireland, you are required to submit a comprehensive set of documents to support your application. Here is an elaboration on the required documents:
- A signed and dated summary of the visa application form.
- Two passport-size photos that adhere to Ireland’s photo requirements
- Your original passport.
- Copies of all previous passports, if you have any.
- Letter of Application: A detailed letter that includes the following information:
- Your personal details.
- The reason for your travel, which is family reunification in this case
- Information about your family member in Ireland whom you are joining
- Information about any other family members you may have in Ireland or elsewhere in the EU
- Proof of Sponsor’s Eligibility: Depending on whether your family member is an Irish citizen or a non-EU/EEA citizen, you need to provide specific documents to demonstrate their eligibility to sponsor you:
- For family members who are Irish citizens. A copy of their Irish passport and other documents proving their citizenship will be needed.
- For non-EU/EEA citizens, copies of all pages of their passport, their registration document, and their work permit or other documents attesting to their permission to stay in Ireland will be needed.
- Proof of Family Relationship: Provide documents to establish your relationship with the sponsor:
- For spouses: Marriage or civil partnership certificate, and if you have not lived together since marriage, you must have evidence of your relationship history, including visas, pictures, correspondence, etc.
- For children under 18, you must provide a Birth certificate or adoption papers. If the child is in the sponsor’s custody, include custody papers. And where there is shared custody, consent from the other parent will also be needed.
- For De Facto partners, you must provide evidence of your relationship, such as proof of shared ownership/tenancy, partnership registration certificate, and mail proving shared address. You may also need to confirm your relationship history with documents such as visas, pictures, correspondence, etc.
- Proof of substantial finances: one of the major requirements for a smooth family reunification process is the evidence of sufficient finances to support the move to Ireland. So, for that, there are a couple of documents one will have to provide, including;
- Bank statements for both the sponsor and the applicant for the last six months
- Proof of the sponsor’s income abilities, which you will need P60s for the last two years, or one year if that’s how long the sponsor has been in the country, three most recent payslips, a work contract that states the sponsor’s salary, and lastly, if the sponsor is self-employed, notices of assessment of income will be needed.
- In cases where the sponsor wants to bring the family member to Ireland immediately, i.e. they have stayed in the country for a long time, one will need to provide a work contract which states your annual income, plus any other evidence of their earnings.
How to apply for the Irish family visa
If you are looking to apply for an Irish family visa, here is a step-by-step process on how to do it;
Getting permission for family reunification – to begin the family reunification process in Ireland, the sponsor must submit a written application to the Family Reunification Section of INIS (Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service). The application letter should contain the following details:
- Sponsor’s Information: The sponsor’s full name, personal identification (ID) number, and residential address.
- Family Members Information: Comprehensive information about each family member the sponsor wishes to bring to Ireland. This includes their names, dates of birth, addresses, nationalities, and the nature of the relationship they share with the sponsor.
Once the INIS receives the application letter, they will send the sponsor a questionnaire and a list of necessary documents. The sponsor must complete the questionnaire thoroughly and provide all the required documents as requested by the INIS. After the INIS processes, the application and the family reunification request may be approved if all requirements are met. Only after the approval can the family member proceed to apply for an Ireland Join Family Visa.
Applying for the family visa – to apply for an Ireland family reunification visa, you must complete an online application. To apply for Ireland visas, you need to utilize AVATS, the Irish visa online application system. When accessing the form, you must indicate the duration and reason for your travel and complete all subsequent sections and questions. After successfully filling out the online application form for Ireland family reunification, you will be presented with a summary of the form, which you will are required to print the summary, sign, and date as instructed. Then click “Submit,” and you will receive instructions on where to send your supporting documents for further processing.
After submitting the application, you must send the required documents (listed above) to a specified address for processing. The location for submitting documents for the Ireland family reunification visa varies by country. It could be an Irish embassy/consulate in your country or a designated visa application agency. Now, you must gather all the required documents, including your original passport, and enclose them in a sturdy envelope. Then, you must mail it to the specified address for processing. If your visa application is approved, you will receive your passport with the issued visa attached via mail, which means you can now travel to Ireland. Upon arrival in Ireland, you must go through Border Control or the immigration department to request permission to stay there. Once you are in the country, you will be required to register with the Irish immigration services and obtain a residence permit.
It’s important to note that if you come from a country whose residents are subject to Ireland visas, you must apply for an Ireland entry visa before travelling. However, if you are from a visa-exempt country for Ireland, you can travel without a visa, but you will still need to pass through Border Control/immigration office. During this process, you must demonstrate that you meet the requirements to enter Ireland. If you belong to a nationality that doesn’t require a visa to travel to Ireland, you must apply for family reunification permission after entering the country. This application needs to be made to the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service.
How long will it take for the visa to be processed?
The processing time for the Ireland family reunification visa can vary based on individual circumstances and the workload at the visa office. While there is no official fixed time frame given for the processing of family visas, certain general guidelines can be observed based on the sponsor’s immigration status:
- Sponsor with Irish Nationality: If your sponsor is already an Irish national and has obtained the immigration status of an Irish citizen, the processing time for the family visa is usually shorter. In such cases, applicants often receive a decision within approximately six months of submitting their application.
- Sponsor from Non-EEA Country Living in Ireland: If your sponsoring family member is originally from a non-EEA country but is lawfully residing in Ireland, the visa processing time may be longer. In these situations, due to additional considerations and complexities, applicants should typically expect to receive a decision within approximately one year from their visa application date.
It is important to note that these time frames are approximate and can vary based on the individual circumstances of each case and the caseload at the specific visa office handling the applications. Delays can occur for a number reasons, such as additional document verifications, changes in immigration policies, or a high volume of applications. During the waiting period, applicants are advised to regularly check the status of their application and follow up with the relevant authorities, if necessary. It is also essential to ensure that all required documents are accurately submitted to avoid any potential delays in visa processing.
Conditions for the family visa
The type of work permit or stamp you receive in Ireland depends on the immigration status of your sponsor (the family member who is an Irish citizen or holds a specific type of Ireland visa/permit). Here’s a detailed explanation of the different scenarios:
- Sponsor is an Irish Citizen: If your sponsor is an Irish citizen, you will typically be issued an Ireland Stamp 4 permission. This stamp allows you to work in Ireland without obtaining a separate Employment Permit. With Stamp 4, you can work in any profession or sector.
- Sponsor Holds a Critical Skills Employment Permit: If the sponsor holds a Critical Skills Employment Permit, the applicant eligible for the Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit. This type of work permit allows you to work in any profession in Ireland, including those on the ineligible occupations list, except for domestic operative roles. The Dependant/Partner/Spouse Employment Permit is also issued free of charge.
- Sponsor Holds a General Work Permit or Other Ireland Visa/Permit: If your sponsor holds a General Work Permit or any other Irish visa/permit, you will need to apply for your own Employment Permit separately if you wish to work in Ireland. The Employment Permit will be specific to the job and employer for which it is granted.
- Elderly Parent of an Irish Citizen/Resident: If you are the elderly parent of an Irish citizen or resident, you will typically receive a Stamp 0 permission. This stamp allows you to remain in Ireland on the basis of being financially supported by your sponsor (your child, who is an Irish citizen or resident).
The cost of the application
After completing your visa application for Ireland, you will be required to pay the visa fee applicable before your application can be submitted and processed. The visa fee depends on the specific visa you are applying for:
- Single-Entry Visa: If you are applying for a single-entry visa, the visa fee is 60 euros.
- Multiple-Entry Visa – For a multiple-entry visa, the visa fee is 100 euros
You need to note that the visa fee is non-refundable, regardless of the outcome of your visa application. Therefore, ensuring that you meet all the eligibility requirements and provide accurate and complete documentation is essential to increase the chances of a successful application.
In addition to the visa fee, there might be other costs or fees that you may incur during the visa application process. For instance, if any of your required documents need to be translated into English or another specified language, you may need to bear the cost of translation services. Additionally, you may need to pay for courier services if you are required to send your documents to a specific address.
Frequently asked questions
What if I forgot to include a crucial document?
It is crucial to ensure that your application package is complete and thorough before submitting it, as you won’t be able to make any further changes once it’s submitted. Having all the required supporting documents ready beforehand is essential. If any necessary documents are missing, an immigration official may contact you to request additional information. This can lead to a delay in the processing of your application. However, in some instances, if crucial documentation is missing, your application might be automatically rejected, and you may need to reapply for the visa.
What if my visa application is denied?
If your application is denied, you will get a notification outlining the reasons for the rejection. In certain situations, you have the option to appeal the decision with the Department of Justice and Equality. However, in some cases, applying for a new visa might be quicker and more cost-effective. If you have recently had your family visa application for Ireland denied and are unsure about the best course of action, you should consider consulting an immigration attorney.
Do I need an attorney to apply for the Family Visa?
While hiring a lawyer when applying for an Irish family visa is not required, it is recommended to get one. An experienced immigration solicitor can assist you in evaluating your situation and providing valuable guidance on the documentary evidence you need to gather to maximize your chances of obtaining approval for your Irish visa application.
In conclusion, we can all agree that the Irish Family Visa offers a vital opportunity for families to reunite and create lasting memories together in Ireland. So, take this opportunity if you have loved ones in Ireland who you want to join. As you have seen, the process is quite simple.